A primitive pleasure for mankind is also valued highly in this high-tech world, but it’s scarce when you’re behind the wheel of car as you pull into an office or shopping center parking lot on a summer day. Unless you’ve arrived at one of those rare places where trees provide cooling shade, you know you’re going to fry when you return to the car.
You unlock the car and open the door and a hot air blast hits you. The sun fills the earth with life-giving light and energy, and in August it turns your car interior into a toaster oven. You slide behind the wheel and wilt, unless rescued by shade.
For all our wonderful inventions and architecture we settle for bare parking lots that in summer roast our cars and pickup trucks. You can turn on the air conditioning as soon as you get in, but the seats, steering wheel, dash and windows radiate heat. You know you’re going to sweat and also inhale chemicals from the heated up upholstery and plastic. If you’re making multiple stops, you can count on repeat broils.
Decades ago, people left all the windows down at each stop. Nobody worried about being robbed. Most people didn’t own a car with an air conditioner. Then the world got a little crazier. Rare is the person now who leaves a car unlocked and the windows down, no matter how hot the weather. Getting cooked in a once-parked car is a part of summer.
An alternative is using that gift of nature called trees in parking lots. Suburban growth is a big issue facing Platte County. Will it be quality growth, or cheaply and poorly done growth? Can we mix in enough greenery to prevent an asphalt desert where we shop and dine? Might we even have cutting-edge landscape innovations that nurture nature?
I recently gave a speech at mid-day at a bank. I pulled into the parking lot and saw shelter at the edge. It was a tree planted for looks, one not too tall but casting a big shadow. It was a long walk from the bank but the coolest place in the parking lot. My car was still in the shade when I returned. I had avoided auto sauté.
Green design is possible. There are young shade trees in the parking lot at my day job. But, you’ve got to arrive early to get in-demand shady spots. We can have prettier and cooler parking lot landscape designs as Platte County develops.
The hitch is construction care and cost. A developer must plan for good soil beneath landscape islands, plant the right trees for conditions, and water and trim as needed. But a pleasant shopping or dining experience can attract more business. Shade might even prolong pavement life.
Who knows, maybe solar panels on canopies will usurp trees in providing shade and energy, too, maybe for charging stations for electric cars. Maybe it will be a combination.
Do a Google search about shade in parking lots and you’ll find plenty of positive information. If developers, planning and zoning board members and elected officials champion greener parking lot designs in commercial areas, Platte County will be cooler in both temperature and culture.